Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Nigeria loses about 53,000 citizens to HIV/AIDS-related deaths annually, a study by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study has revealed.
The study, however, indicated a reduction in HIV prevalence in the country, with about 1.9 million people currently living with the virus and 130,000 new HIV infection per annum, though many are yet to know their status.
Chief of Party/Country Lead, Nigeria, John Snow Incorporated, Nigeria, Olawole Durosinmi-Etti, who said his organisation technically supported the government and other stakeholders to improve access to HIV services in Nigeria demanded for increased self-testing by Nigerians to know their status.
“The prevalence based on the research recently conducted by the National Aids Impact Assessment Study revealed that we have less number of people living with HIV/AIDS compare to about three million we thought we had before. We have about 1.9 million currently based on that study. But there still several people who don’t know their status,” he said.
The UN had launched the HIV self-testing campaign to realise its goal of 95/95/95 target by the year 2030.
The HIV self-testing, (HIVST) is a process whereby an individual collects his or her specimen, performs a test and interprets the results often in a private setting either alone or with someone he or she trusts.
In an interview with newsmen, member, Governing Council, Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISHAN), North West, Emmanuel Bonnet said the launch of HIVST campaign in the zone was paramount because all over the country NACA, CISHAN were partnering stakeholders to ensure everyone has a good understanding of what HIVST is.
“We also need to let the communities take up the service on their own. For example, if you do a test at home, you should know what to do next if the result is positive which is to go and have a confirmation test and if the result is positive again, you need a referer to get the necessary care you need,” Bonnet said.
Programme Director, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Foundation, Munir Elelu, described the prevalence rate as “a matter of grave concern to public health in Nigeria.”
He said, for all to be able to achieve the United Nations of 95/95/95 per cent goal in 2030, all hands must be on deck.
“The 95/95/95 percent of the UN goal is to achieve 95 percent of the population knowing their status, 95 per cent of those who know their status have access to health care treatment and by the year 2030, we achieve 95 percent suppression of the viral load of those that are positive,” he said.
“Now, about 70 per cent of Nigerians have access to community pharmacists as the first point of call for their health care services. So, we have conducted an orientation for pharmacists in this regard on ease of access to HIV testing commodities which is a very important way to reduce HIV prevalence in Nigeria,” he said.
However, Executive Secretary, CISHAN, Walter Ugwuocha warned that Kaduna State may be left behind in achieving the UN goal of 95/95/95 2030 target if urgent steps were not taken to improve its awareness campaign on HIV as current statistics showed that the state was lagging behind others.
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